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Paul O’Neill — Washington’s Forrest Gump?

Is the new U.S. Treasury Secretary’s approach refreshing — or downright risky?

May 31, 2001

Is the new U.S. Treasury Secretary's approach refreshing — or downright risky?

“I don’t want to socialize the cost of certain-to-fail policies into the pocketbooks of the American people.”

(On withholding money from developing countries that have not implemented policies to ensure success, May 2001)

“What I liked about it is that it worked. I like success. I’m not a real fan of even well-meaning failure.”

(February 2001)


(On the Clinton Administration’s efforts in 1998 to rescue the Russian economy, February 2001)

“I’d consider myself a hero if I was never called on to rescue Mexico or Indonesia.”

(On foreseeing financial crises, February 2001)

“If you believe that human beings create all this stuff, then it ought to be possible for us to not create it.” (February 2001)

“When we have a crisis, it’s a failure of anticipation.”

(On how to tackle crises in the global economy, February 2001)

“I’d like to know who is responsible if an intervention in a particular place doesn’t work. That’s, I think, a legitimate question.”

(On the accountability for bailout programs, February 2001)

“You don’t get any of this done by throwing bumper stickers over the wall.”

(On the Clinton administration’s public criticism of Japan’s economy)

“The way you get no growth is to say, ‘We’re satisfied with what we’re doing,’ and then you will get no growth.”

(On Japan’s need to examine its own shortfalls)

“I am not going to tell the Japanese how to pursue a monetary policy. I don’t think that’s how you get real, lasting growth.”

(On how he would approach the Japanese, February 2001)

“Have you ever tried to do business in Russia? Ever try to write an enforceable contract? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it’s not a great place to put capital.”

(On his experience as Alcoa chairman and CEO)

“In the organization that I left in December 2000, it took us 2 1/2 days to close our financial books at more than 300 locations in 36 countries. It takes the US federal government five months to close our books — and then the auditors give us a qualified opinion. This is not the stuff of excellence.”

(On slow departmental bureaucracy, April 2001)

“Unworthy of an advanced civilization.”

(On the present US tax code, February 2001)

“A nonsense set of statistics.”

(On the relevance of tables illustrating how different income groups would be affected by the Bush tax cut, March 2001)

“The hardest questions came from my children — because they weren’t bound by conventional wisdom and knowledge.”

(On his intention to keep asking provocative questions, February 2001)

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